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Pruning shears are specialized scissors which are designed to be used in the pruning of woody plants and flowers. They have sturdy blades which can cut through woody branches, along with thick handles to make the shears easier to handle and use. Many gardeners keep a pair of pruning shears around for minor pruning tasks, along with a set of lopping shears to cut larger branches. Garden supply and hardware stores typically stock pruning shears, along with protective covers which can be pulled over their blades for storage.
There are several different pruning shear designs, from lightweight floral thinning shears to heavier all-purpose pruning shears. In anvil shears, one blade is sharp, and the other blade is blunt, with the branch being pinned against the blunt blade during the cutting process. Bypass pruning shears have two sharp blades, one of which is curved, while parrot-beak pruning shears have two curved blades at an offset angle to translate pressure into power.
Some companies make ratchet shears, which are designed to increase the pressure on the branches being trimmed with a ratcheting mechanism as the shears are closed. Ratchet pruning shears can be very useful for people with weak hands and older gardeners, as they require only light pressure from the user to function. Pruning sticks, another variation on the basic pruning shear, are mounted on a long handle so that the user can trim foliage and branches up high or in tricky corners of the garden.
For gardeners with limited space for tool storage who may want to think carefully about the purchases they make, pruning shears are highly recommended. An all-purpose pair will be extremely useful for everything from deadheading flowers to trimming the branches of fruit trees, and most pruning shears will last a lifetime, as long as they are maintained properly. Pruning shears are small enough to be stashed in most toolboxes or left in a gardening toolbelt, and they are a highly flexible gardening tool to have around.
Like other bladed garden tools, pruning shears require some special care. Ideally, the shears should cut smoothly and cleanly, so that plants do not incur damage. If pruning shears are not properly maintained, they will mangle instead of cutting, which is very undesirable. Pruning shears should be sharpened if they start to feel blunt, and it is a good idea to oil them at the end of the pruning season, to keep the metal in good condition.